Saturday, February 10, 2018

Defining Space and How We Access It

As I get older I feel like my thoughts then to be broader.  While my youth was spent dissecting the minutia of how to play better handler defense by slightly changing the position of my body, now I spend more time thinking about broader strategy elements like how to structure and effective poach.  I think part of this comes (at least for me) with a reduction in ability.  Who am I to say how to best position your body to stop an up-line cut?  I'm old and have creaky joints so I can barely stop anyone (and more importantly have to fall back on tricks that younger players might not have to).  I guess this doesn't have to do with the specific topic at hand, and there is probably more to get into in this topic.  But the point is that I've spent a good bit of time thinking about space in ultimate and I wonder if I can codify some terms and ideas regarding the offensive use of space in this game.

First, let's talk about roles in defining space.  For the most part we are going to be talking about active space as an area that cutters use in an attempt to get the disc.  There are lots of ways to access active space (which are covered in the cutting tree that I never finish), but all of them require a particular active space.  There are other types of space, but we aren't going to be too concerned about those in this discussion.

Offensive structures are the first attempt to define space (active space being their primary focus).  A vertical stack splits the field in two vertical active spaces, with one (the open side) being the most active and the other being used.  It then finds success by switching which active space is being used as quickly as possible.  More on that later.  Horizontal stacks split the field into a near and a far space, both of which are accessible from the start.  However, as this offense (or any spread offense) continues the spaces shift and it becomes a larger, central active space (closer to the original position of a split stack).  Side stacks choose one lane and maximize it as much as possible.  The point is that offenses try to define active space with their structure.

Defenses understandingly try to limit defensive space with their positioning, marking and poaching schemes.  Let's use a vertical stack as a structure to talk about.  In a vertical stack the offense is try attempting to create two vertical lanes ~17 yards wide and space at the back.  The mark attempts to stop one of those lanes by "forcing" a direction, and the defenders likely play a yard or two off their person, narrowing the lane to maybe ~12 yards.  Maybe they bracket the last person to reduce the size of the deep active space.  In the case of a side stack, maybe they throw a person into the active lane to poach, reducing the active space.  Not to mention that once a cutter is in motion the defending player then attempts to reduce the space for you to throw the disc based on their proximity and speed relative to the offender.  The point is that defenses attempt to reduce space through schemes and athleticism.

Now let's get to the real point of the article: how do teams try to access space.  It is different for every offensive structure, and beyond that it is different for every team.  There are may ways to be successful at accessing space (some might call this "getting open" but since the theme is space I'm going to call it "accessing space).  Likewise there are many ways to fail at it.  But I think in general we can break down all of these methods into three main categories.  You can access space through cutting prowess, through throwing prowess through shifting the location of the disc and by shifting the landscape of the field through player movement.  The last is the one I am most interested in, but we need to explain the others as a reference.

First, cutting prowess.  This is how many offenses, and especially most side stacks, operate to use space.  Put a great cutter out there, let them juke and confuse their defender and eventually explode open.  It helps if you can offer two readily available active spaces (or partition your space into two sections like under/deep) so the cutter can threaten one thing and take the other.  But in the end, it is about the ability of your cutter to get open.

Second, throwing prowess.  This was on display (I think, I should watch it again) during the 2017 USAU Mixed National Finals where Amp was consistently using short breaks to the front of the stack to open up the offense.  The idea is that a person with the disc is also critical in defining the active space.  Your horizontal offense might attempt to open up initial deep strikes, but if your center handler can't throw it deep then you haven't successfully opened that space.  This happens near the end zone, where many offenses (looking at you CFS) will just throw a pass to open space and have the cutter run on.  This also happens when Brodie is trapped on the flick side of a vertical stack and just throws a hammer to the break (and undefended) lane.  We are pretty comfortable with the idea that certain throwers change the spatial environment on the field through breaks, hucks and just gutsy throws.

Third, shifting the location of the disc.  Let's call this what it is, swinging the disc.  The idea is that vertical space gets more congested the longer a disc is in a third of the field, which inherently means that other space is opening up.  If we aren't all throwing Brodie's hammer to the breakside, then moving the disc laterally is another way to access what was previously blocked space.  That isn't the only way this can happen.  In a stiff headwind your horizontal stack might not attack the deep space as effectively as in a neutral wind.  But running your resets upfield (almost like and up-line cut) allows your handlers to shorten the distance for the huck and then opening up that space.  We talk about moving the disc to change landscape often.  "High side" is probably the thing that I yell most from the sideline (thanks Nancy Sun and Alex Snyder).

The fourth one is the one that I don't think we spend enough time thinking about.  We think about cutter movement as accessing space and clearing space, but often those are still the active spaces in the general structure of the offense.  There are instances that are maybe not thought enough about, where the offense opens up new space because of native player movement.  Many of these instances are involved in plays.  A sweep in a horizontal stack is designed to vacate space on one half of the field while a player from the other half enters that space.  A split (or "red sea" as we called it in high school) in a vertical stack takes the front/back two cutters out to either side so the third person cuts in/deep.  The very premise of the split stack I run is based on how this concept works on a mixed team.

The concept, to be more concrete, is that defenses understand the spaces you are trying to open up through your structure.  They position to limit your cutting ability.  They mark to reduce your ability to throw to spaces they don't want the disc.  All of those things can happen to limit your space, and we are good at them.  But all of those things require an understanding of the active space.  But by moving cutters you can open up space that wasn't there before, and therefore the defense might not have been ready to defend.  As a result cutters, who might understand this shifting space, can easily get open there in a new way.

Let's take a specific example that isn't from a set play.  The game of adjustment and counter-adjustment in the side stack is fun to play since it has been a dominant offense for the past 5-8 years.  One thing that started to happen is that when the lane is crowded the disc will swing and the stack will sweep to the other side.  This takes the space that was previously occupied by the stack and turns it into the active space.  Let's now think about the person defending the back to the stack.  That person is clearly defending deep because there is a lot of clutter in front of them and defenders that could help if their person cuts under.  But why would they?  That space isn't even open because all of the offenders are there.  But when they move that space opens up and that offender in the back of the stack is open by player movement rather than cutting or throwing (ok, technically there was also disc movement and the counter to this is easy because you just keep your poach towards the top of the side stack in place to cap the cutter and then you are done . . . but there are more examples where it is all player movement but this one happens natively rather than in a play).  This method (similar to disc  movement or throwing prowess) allows a person to get open without being a great cutter, but also is hard to defend.  That is especially the case when this happens in the middle of offensive flow rather than a set play.

So what does long diatribe mean aside from I need to go back, edit it and add pictures to further this idea?  It is worthwhile to think about how your team accesses space and whether or not it makes sense for your personnel and team ethics.  It is worth knowing that some modes of accessing space require different skill sets.  It is important know ways to use all four methods for accessing space in different situations for different offensive structures.  Not all four are easy at all times, and some structures really limit different modes of getting open.  I'm growing increasingly partial to the fourth because it works regardless of your cutters and throwers ability.  The flip is that it requires people to be really aware of the field.  But everything has its drawbacks.

I'll try to clean this up at some point, but I had it on my mind and wanted to get it out before I forgot.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Further review on PT totals between Revolver, Ring of Fire and USX

Jacob's comment in the last post started this, and after spending some time trying to figure it out I decided that I can't add pictures to a blogger comment.  So I started a new post.

The gist of the conversation was that I would have liked a more even PT distribution between players during the finals (although I understand why it wasn't flat and commend Tallis Boyd on doing a great job with a difficult task).  Jacob asked if that was all that uncommon, so I look at particular games that he suggested.  Here are the graphs, where the y-axis is the number of points played.  For reference, the Revolver-Ring game was a slow bleed where Revolver won 13-10.  The USX final was a closer affair until the very end, when we won 13-11.  Graphs (Revolver, Ring, USX, respectively).

From the looks of it, Jacob is right that the USX point distribution isn't that different from the others. A better question would be if it was different from our semi-final against Canada.  One thing that might be worth paying more attention to is where the ramp starts.  For USX our minimum point were 3 out of 24 (1/8 of the points).  For Revolver the minimum was 3 out of 23 (stupid prime numbers), while the Ring one was 1 out of 23 (ignoring the 0's which might have been injured players).  It would seem that the starting position of the ramp would likely determine how steep it could be.

One other thing that is really worth pointing out, is that a more flat distribution isn't "better."  In this case it was something that we might aspire to, but that doesn't mean we are playing a better form of ultimate or have a higher chance of winning.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A few more numbers for USX '18

I ran a few more numbers for the finals again Japan and I thought I would share them

Point distribution among players wasn't as flat as I would like.  Two players only played 3 points, while four players played 10+.  The ramp between those two levels was pretty even, but I wish playing time was a little more even.  It is a difficult ask as those sort of things tend to fall away in the finals and during a tournament when there are many ofter things going on.

Possessions per goal for each team were decent, but not excellent.  USX needed (on average) 2.77 possessions to score and Japan needed 3.18.  It is always true that the team with the lower number during a game wins, so there isn't much behind a comparison of these numbers.  Comparing it to previous college and club teams it falls within the range of expectation for college teams (where playing 2 is elite college and 3+ isn't unheard of) and I wouldn't expect to be at the front of that number since there isn't a ton of time to gel and the competition is better.  It is pretty bad for a club team, although I haven't looked at those numbers for the mixed division in particular.

The number that is most interesting to me is percentage of possessions ending in an unforced error (defense doesn't touch the disc).  USX had consistent numbers in the first and second half around 43-45%, which again isn't that bad (but could really be a lot better).  The impressive thing for me is that in the 2nd half Japan had a number of 21.4%  That is very elite.  That means 1 out of every 5 possessions ends in an unforced error (which includes hucks that go too far).  If a team I am coaching has that number then we are either winning, both teams are playing lights out, or they are getting blocks.  The latter was the case this time, as we were able to slightly grow a lead despite the Japanese playing relatively error free ultimate.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Gender Contact Ratio (3rd cycle)

This past January I was fortunate enough to have another wonderful experience coaching the USA U24 Mixed team (USX).  We won a gold medal, like the previous two years, but this cycle was very different from the past two.

This was the first iteration with no founding players.  Last cycle we had returners that had shaped the teams existence and this was the first official passing of a torch to new leaders for whom this was already an "established" thing.  This time we took a smaller roster, slightly eschewing the "more people means more fun" mentality for the possibility of a tighter knit team.  This cycle also was captive by the times and far more interested in gender equity than teams in the past.  All of these things are probably worth talking about at some point, but for now we will divert from the last one to look at the same thing I have looked at the past two, gender contact ratio.

The same caveat applies as before: there isn't a "perfect" number that represents the most "equitable" style of play.  We can't make hard conclusions about the involvement of both genders from this number, but it does help us check our perception of reality and talk about broad topics.

The context of the game was similar to last cycle.  It was windy, but not too oppressive.  Japan used their women more effectively (at least in my opinion) than Australia did in 2015.  Our team was more conscientious about using our women, and we had more female handlers than we had ever had.  In 2013 we could argue having 3 female handlers, with really only Sophie being a true center handler in the bunch.  This group decided early on that we had really good female center handlers and threw the first pass to them without any instruction from us.  This time we had Hardy, KJ, T-Lo and Anna all acting as handlers and all taking turns getting centered to.  Japan also utilized a zone that required a lot of patty-cake from our handlers (or maybe it was the handlers that we had at the time) because we weren't going to swing around their 3-3-1 as easily.  This patty-cake often featured male handlers getting lots of touches.

The numbers for this game were pretty surprising.  I felt like we were more equitable with our distribution, not as a mantra but rather because we were opening up good space and willing to throw passes.  I often talk about how my anecdotal measure of success for a mixed team is how willing they are to throw a 20-30 yard under to a woman who is well guarded.  It shows a level of trust, openness of space, and also a recognition that small spaces are ok sometimes.  I felt like this team leaned in to that principle well and was often throwing big gainers to their women.  Those women didn't turn around and boost it as much as I would like, but at the same time they weren't always resetting the disc either, so I think it is a structural problem in how we were running the offense.

To the numbers.  In this game there were a total of 417 touches (as compared to 252 and 180 in the past two cycles . . . patty-cake).  Of those 417, 157 were by women.  This breaks down to 37.6% of the touches or a contact ratio of 1.66 times as many touches for a man as compared to a woman.  If we look at the past two cycles we had numbers of 3.00 (2015) and 2.53 (2013).  I know I said that this number doesn't well correlate with better play, but I can't help but feel that we threw to women more often and this number supports it.  No doubt part of it is getting people in places to shine, but we were consistently throwing difficult passes to small windows and hitting women.  We also did a better job of clearing out space downfield so that strings of female passes could occur before a male defender and offender crowded the picture.

It is worth noting that these numbers include a few points against that Japanese zone where we had a high number of touches and since much of that was between three men (Brett, John and Matt) it skews the numbers a bit.  Women were still key players in those points, but not in the patty-cake that was most of the touches and rather in the key outlet and through passes that actually moved the disc.  One such possession had 27 touches by women as compared to 52 touches by men.  Another was 18/47, respectively.  I thought about taking these points out, but they are real points that affected touches, so I felt they should stay in.

On thing that is worth looking at is a comparison of the final to the semi-final.  After the semi against Canada there was a clear feeling by members of the team that we "hadn't used our women well."  While that is amorphous and certainly isn't completely embodied by this ratio, it was the feeling by the players and we were a little surprised.  Looking back at the film the first time it felt like there were plenty of places where only men were touching the disc, but that it was largely a structural issue (cutters too far away and reset defenders able to get too close) than a broader failure to throw to women.  Watching the film again looking at contact ratio, the semifinal was less balanced than the final (showing that we cleaned things up) but not terribly so.  The ratio was 2.24 touch for men for each by a woman.  That is better than both other finals, although it is markedly worse than our final this cycle.

So what does this mean?  I feel like I got this job in part because I was able to well describe a way that I thought we could best showcase mixed ultimate, not by ignoring gender and treating everyone the same, nor by over leveraging particular advantages (see Bad Larry mid2000s who ran 4 women so their men had more room to homey) but by saying that if we put people in the right places and throw to them in a system that creates space for everyone, we can all get better.  It is a "total is greater than the sum of the pieces" approach.  I feel like we did that in the past, and while watching these two games again more critically I do feel that we made many refinement errors (didn't run our redzone particularly well, suffered from handler creep, etc.) we did a better job of getting everyone space at times and throwing passes to everyone.  That, combined with a better balance of genders in each position, and a focus on gender equity, is likely part of the reason we ended up getting more people involved.

Again, that doesn't mean that the road to victory is having a ratio of 1, or that this is the only way to win these games.  But as a person who hopes to live up to values of inclusion, and recognizes that there are times that I fail, looking at the Gender Contact Ratio for this cycle makes me think that we did a pretty good job.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

US Open 2017: Brute Squad vs. Revolution

I got a chance to watch the live stream of this excellent game between two great teams.  There was a lot of hype about how this might be a bracket game at worlds next summer, and that Maddy Frey can't seem to catch the disc standing up.  But I wanted to talk a bit about the strategy of the game, and in particular how I think Revolution might be changing the direction of women's ultimate in the next few years.

One key element in this discussion is that Revolution is athletic to the point the Brute Squad didn't have a decisive advantage . . . at least that is what listening to the commentators you might think.  I think Brute is actually more athletic from top to bottom, but Revolution employs a style of defense that highly leverage their athletes in a way that Brute doesn't.  So it doesn't matter that Brute can trot out Becky, Kami and Lien when Mosquera can guard all three with the way they play defense.

On its face, Columbia does and excellent job poaching, leaving Mosquera to guard the deep space while other cutter defenders only chase a woman deep for two strides before breaking off and finding a new threat to take.  That isn't really new.  What is new, and what warrants further analysis is the success that Revolution has with it against even the best teams in the world.

There are times when the defenders are super close, especially on handlers, and then there are times when offenders are wide open.  Normally, when we see US and Canadian teams try this there is a failure point where the poached player gets the disc and it starts to crumble.  But that doesn't seem to happen against Revolution.  It only marginally happened against Columbia in the World Games final (and didn't happen in the pool play game where Columbia beat the US).

What is new about their defense is the success rate they have of not losing track of a player in a good space.  Revolution, whether by practice or just something innate, is super efficient at making their switches, knowing when to stay and when to leave, and being ready to explode to get the D at the right time.  It must be a nightmare for opposing offenses because it feels like offensive cadence is broken.

Like I said, this warrants more analysis.  It could be that the solution is easy and this defense falls into the category of the Japanese no-mark zone where it is potentially difficult unless you have a plan.  But it also could be that this defense has more merit than a one off and more teams start to implement not just the general structure of the defense (most elite teams have a poachy look to throw at out, at least to mess up your pull play) but tunnel down and figure out the principles of the defense.

Then again, it could just be that Revolution is so athletic that this works and when you try it with your club team it doesn't.  It would be interesting to see something like this tried on the men's side of things, since we have good examples in both women's and mixed.  But, like I said, this warrants more analysis.  Stay tuned and we'll see what comes up.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Stupid Games (part 3: Frisketball)

I have been playing Frisketball since 2011 when a bunch of Paideia Juniors and I made it up after our season ended in the spring.  We could only get a handful of people, and didn't want to drive out to a field or put on cleats.  So we needed something akin to pickup basketball where you could almost always play (on the same field) and people could come and go with little disturbance to the overall game.  Frisketball was created and is best played with between 4 and 8 players.

The rules started almost identical to Hot Box.  The playing field is the basketball court.  The goal is to complete a pass to your team inside of the paint.  That is it.  Super simple.

In the past few years we have evolved the rules a little bit, making the game more like basketball and finding other tweaks.  Here are the basic rules that we always play with.

- Stall is 7
- Picks are discouraged, but so is calling picks
- Neither offense nor defense can stand in the paint for more than 3 seconds
- If you throw the disc in the hoop it is a goal (good luck)
- Double-teams are allowed

The game is all about shifting spaces and the rectangular nature of the goal makes scoring interesting.  It is a game that encourages fast play, creative throws, and offering appropriate help defense.

A 2-on-2 game is hard because the defense will always play towards the paint and with only one other person as a viable target it becomes difficult to find useful attacking space (but there is plenty of reset space).

A 3-on-3 game is exciting because there can be lots of swinging to shift attack angles, but there still aren't enough people for you to rest too much.

A 4-on-4 game is tough because the defense can clog so effectively.  The offense needs to be much more coordinated, which can be very rewarding.

The game can also be full or half-court depending on numbers and available space.

A few of the alternate rules that we have installed in the game:
- No over-and-back: in a full court game once the thrower establish one point of contact beyond the half-court line if they go backwards (either with a pivot or a pass), it is a turnover.

- Out of bounds: if any point of contact for the thrower is on or beyond the out of bounds line it is a turnover.  This includes stopping with the disc after you catch it (it also creates interesting trap situations on defense).

- 10 second rule: in a full court game the offensive team has 10 seconds (from in-bounds possession of the disc) to get the disc past the half-court line.  This 10 seconds can be counted by anyone on or off the field, and must be counted down from 10 to avoid confusion with the stall

- 2 point line: in a full court game, if a goal is thrown from beyond the half-court line it is worth two points

- Jump ball: in a full court game, to start the game you can have a jump ball at center court.  If the disc hits the ground without being caught then the team going away from the side where it lands starts with the disc at its current location.

Frisketball is really tremendous fun.  People who are bad at ultimate can still be good at frisketball.  It is easy to play with all ages and across gender.  It isn't a lot of running, but is incredibly tiring.  It can be physical or gentle depending on how you want to play it.  If you give it a go and have feedback please don't hesitate to post it as a comment.  All of those expanded rules were the rules of just having fun with it, so more collaboration is encouraged.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Stupid Games (part 2: BruteBall?)

Ok, I've got a few tweaks to scrimmages lined up, but since it has been almost a month since my last post I'll go with something that is more unique.  I cannot claim credit for this game.  At best I could give credit to Noah Cohen, but I think he learned it from someone in North Carolina.  Patrick Hard went to school in NC, so let's pretend he invented it.

The game's name is still up in the air.  Noah called it "honey pot" . . . I am not calling a game that I might be teaching middle school kids by that name.  From now on I will refer to it as BruteBall (please someone leave a better name in the comments).

The game feels similar to KanJam in that there is a can (in this case a larger, circular trashcan).  But unlike KanJam it isn't a passive game about throwing and deflection.  It also isn't symmetric.  The game is played with exactly 3 players.  Each possession two are on offense and one is on defense.  The offenders are trying to put the disc in the trashcan in pretty much any manner they can, but the disc can't cross the plane at the top of the lid while it is still in someone's hand.  So you literally can't jam the can.

Like ultimate, you can't travel when you have the disc and you have a stall (in this case 6 seconds).  But unlike ultimate, the defender doesn't have to mark in order to stall.  You would think that scoring happens when the offense puts the disc in the can, but that isn't the case.  Each possession, a point is scored for the defender if there is a turnover.  Then the defender rotates to a new person and you start a new possession.  The only rules for the defender are they they cannot cover the can with their body/arms.  Games are played to whatever you like, but 5 seems to work pretty well.

To start a possession the defender just tosses the disc somewhere in the playing area and the game starts.  The playing area can be as large as you like, but must completely surround the can.  It doesn't have to be a circle where the can is the center, but the can needs to be accessible from all sides.

So what is this game about.  It might seem like the thing to do defensively is to just sit at the can.  There are no rules preventing you from doing that, but it will allow the offense to get really close to the can, and then it only takes the offender getting the disc around your body and dropping it in to score.  You might logically think that the thing to do is to stall while playing tight defense on the other offender.  But then you leave an uncontested throw for on offender and if the other one sneaks past you then it is an easy goal.

Instead the thing to do is to figure out the balance between the two.  You play the lane to block a direct shot while trying to also contest a pass to the other offender, all while stalling.  So this game is working on help defense and controlling angles (I guess . . . it is mostly just fun).

That is it for another installment of Stupid Games.  I'll come back next month with something else . . . maybe with pictures.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Stupid Games (part 1: 4v6)

I wonder how many multi-part posts I can start before I finish any of them?

I like playing games, and I like making games.  It is one of the things that I really enjoy about coaching.  Finding the right tweak or an existing drill (or whole-cloth new drill) to teach the specific thing you are trying to get at is a ton of fun.

One game that we created is called 4v6.  I'd make a diagram of it, but the diagram is incredibly boring.  4v6 is played in a box of four cones approximately 10yds by 12 yds.  The team of six is on "offense" and is simply trying to keep the disc alive (no turnovers).  The team of four is on "defense" and is trying to generate as many turns as possible.  The game is played for a short amount of time (5 minutes) where the offensive team is always on offense.  In the event of a turn, the disc goes back to the offensive team.  The defense scores one point for each turnover.  After the 5 minutes is over the two teams switch and the second defensive team tries to beat the first defensive team's score.

The stall is 5, but you don't have to be marking to stall the person with the disc.  All offensive players must have one point of contact with the ground at all times.  This basically means no running or jumping.  The defensive team does not have this restriction.  This really helps because the defensive team can "guard" four of the five non-throwing offensive players and can run to get the fifth.

A few other rules/tweaks we have tried:
-Have two teams of four and keep two people as permanent offense.
-No patty-cake rules where you can't throw back to the person who threw to you unless the count is over three (basically no back and forth with another player)
-Changing the size of the box.  This really matters depending on disc-skill and athleticism.  With Chain I had to use a larger box because the defenders were so fast.
-Changing the number of players.  Really the game should be called "N+2" because the offense should always have two extra players.  That means the defense can't shut down everyone and has to work together to cover the extra open offender.

If anyone still reads this blog and has questions, comments or suggestions about this game please don't hesitate to leave them below.  4v6 is far from perfect, but it does work on some good ultimate skills in a focused fashion.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Statistics Update, and a note on subbing patterns

I really should be working on the cutting tree, but with my coaching future in question and the high school season in full swing I have tabled that to work on some other things.

I have continued collecting data on what I think is are some novel statistics.  After a year of tracking these things, I have actually gotten a somewhat reasonable set of data and I feel like conclusions can start to be made.

The first one I've talked about before: it is percentage of possessions that result in an unforced error (%UE).  Conceptually this is "bad," but not necessarily directly correlated with score.  In a windy game the %UE might go up very high, even if the teams are really good.  Unlike "breaks" or "offensive efficiency," you can lose a game where you have a better %UE.  Categorizing %UE is a little subjective, but I have been using the rule of if the defense gets a hand on it then it was "forced." Everything else falls in "unforced" and is counted.  Paideia's average %UE for the season so far is ~47%, which is pretty good.  Basically we give up the frisbee just under half of the time we have it . . . sounds bad, but when compared to individual games where the number is 60+% this is fine.

Since I had enough data to try this, I have wondered what this does correlate with.  Anecdotally we would assume that this correlates with wins because the lower your %UE the less you are "screwing up."  But I decided to take it one step farther and run a correlation with the final point differential of the game.  As I get more games I have been updating the data, and it currently has an R^2 value of 0.385.  Honestly I don't know if that is "good," and everything I read tells me that just looking at the R^2 value isn't enough to deem good or bad anyway.  But the important thing that I note is how that number goes up.  In general, aside from the data collected at a windy tournament, the correlation coefficient is getting larger as I enter more games and we play in more tournaments.   I'll keep taking the data, and seeing if %UE is actually a reasonable indicator of team success (without being trivial because it IS team success . . . looking at you "breaks").

I also have continued to play around with number of possessions per goal (PPG).  There isn't as much useful data there.  I have lots of good  number for my team, including a drubbing by Amherst where we played well (-9, but a good -9) and had a 6.2 and a horrible game against Grady (-2, but we played like shit) and also had a 6.2.  PPG isn't useful in a single game because it is just the score.  If you win PPG you won that game.  But I am curious if in general teams with lower average PPGs beat opponents with larger average PPGs.  In order to figure that out we would need more data from multiple teams, not just the data from one.

Lastly I have started using the score sheets from the past two years worth of Paideia games to build a win probability matrix.   Basically my win probability (WP) is the likelihood of the team with X winning when the score is X-Y. To expand this beyond one team I had the volunteers for Paideia Cup track the order of scores so they could be entered.  So far the only parameter of win probability that is being tracked is current score state, but eventually with enough data it might be expanded to more parameters.  The goal is to be able to figure out which points are, on average, important.  Anecdotally, after a few games were entered, the likelihood of winning games when you were up 9-7 was 0% (again, only a few games) and if you were ahead 10-6 it was 100%.  That means at 9-6 this point "really matters" and maybe it is worth brining in your best players.  Obviously those numbers will change when more games are entered, which is what I am doing for much of May.

Impact on subbing patters is the end goal of WP is to help me inform subbing patters.  I did something similar last year and it made me realize that leaving our "best" players on the field for three points was a waste.  I've used that to adopt a subbing style that keeps people rested, gives new players more responsibility and hopefully bends development curves upwards with a goal of stabilizing the 4 year sinusoidal graph that is "team quality."  But using that pattern had gotten us four straight losses to in-town rival Grady High School.  We knew we would play them in the State Championship so we practiced and implemented a different subbing pattern that looked more like a club/college offense/defense system.   We won all of our games by 9+ en route to a state championship.

I don't want to use that system all of the time, because it means some people are never on the field for an offensive point, and I think that hurts their development.  But having that information is interesting when coupled with WP numbers.  Maybe there is a time when a shift happens from a more team oriented subbing pattern to a more success driven pattern?  Figuring out when that switch should happen feels just as valuable as figuring out that our "best" players have a terrible conversion rate when they have been on the field for 3 points.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Cutting Tree: 2 - Jab Cut

This is an excerpt of a larger document detailing the 9 branches of the cutting tree. It is not a finished product, but I am putting it here to work on formatting and field any comments people have.



Jab Cut -  The jab cut is done by making a jabbing motion typically in a lateral direction to your frontal plane.  This creates the illusion of running in that direction, while it also loads your leg to push and move in the opposite direction.  In this move you are trying to exploit your defender’s tendency to (over)react to your movement and put them in a weak-reaction state.  As a result it is important to think about the purpose and placement of your jab in terms of your defender.


  • A jab is meant to generate a hip-turn, pause, or weight-shift by your defender.
  • A jab towards the frontal plane of your defender will possibly generate a back-step.
  • A jab along the frontal plane of your defender may generate a hip turn, but it also might cause the defender to shuffle and maintain their positioning.
  • A jab at a 45 degree angle to their frontal plane (an attacking jab) will force a clear hip turn.  At worst, assuming the defender absorbs it well, it will generate a hop backwards.


Placement of the jab (especially the 45-degree jab) with respect to the outside foot of your opponent is also important.  A placement outside the space between the defender’s feet (footbox) will likely create a drop-step or a hip-turn.  A placement inside the footbox will likely create a backpedal.

The last, most important component of the jab step is the acceleration out of the step.  It is your acceleration out of the jab that creates a majority of your separation.  The jab is simply reducing the reaction of your defender, allowing you to start your acceleration before they can react.  Loading your jab foot properly, and being able to generate force from that in the desired direction allows you to get separation from your defender.

Here are some examples of a jab cut:




A note about the last cut: it isn't very effective.  The cutter gets open, and gets the disc, but because they are in front of their defender their jab didn't really change the defender's reaction before motion.  In the first two the jab is perpendicular to the defender's frontal plane (first video is into the frontal plane and the second video is away) causing the defender to generate momentum in their frontal plane and in the wrong direction.

This one shows a double-jab (which is still a jab) more parallel to the frontal plane of the defender and causing a hip-turn.